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Big growth for Big-D

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Thirty years ago, a journeyman carpenter named Dee Livingood bet on his future by selling his blue Volkswagen. He used the $1,000 from the car to start his own building business. Nine years later, he formally organized Big-D Construction, trading on the "D" from him name and his "big" physical stature.

From small beginnings, the company, now directed by Dee's son, Jack, operates a firm from spacious headquarters overlooking Ogden. For more than a decade, Big-D has been Utah's leading construction firm, posting $167 million in revenue during 1997.The company was recently ranked ninth in revenue growth for companies headquartered in Utah by the Mountain West Venture Group and one of the Top 15 contractors in the United States in both the semiconductor and food processing areas. For example, the company is finishing work on the nation's largest dairy processing plant in City of Industry, Calif. The plant can process 24,000 gallons of milk an hour.

The firm's handiwork also dots Utah's landscape, including the Utah State University Science & Technology Library, David O. McKay Special Events Center at Utah Valley State College and the remodeling of Peery's Egyptian Theater and building of the adjacent David Eccles Conference Center in downtown Ogden. The firm was also hired to work on the now stalled Micron chip plant in Utah County.

With the official opening this month of the Scott M. Matheson Courts Complex in downtown Salt Lake City, Big-D Construction is in the limelight again as a builder, not only because of the landmark status of the courts building but because of the cost-saving method it used to build the structure.

Jack Livingood, who stepped in to lead Big-D in his late 20s so his father could spend more time in community affairs, says the new building is a testimony to the effectiveness of the design-build construction process. The building, the largest built by the state of Utah since the Capitol was completed, cost $115 per square foot, while most state courts across the nation are averaging over $150 per square foot for new construction.

One company brochure claims the cost-efficient design-build system was "practically birthed at Big-D." The concept fits well the company's ethic.

"We have the type of philosophy that there is zero difference between what we say and what we do," Jack Livingood said.

Likewise, design-build guarantees a project price and makes one contractor solely responsible for the project. The company sees the method as a win-win situation for both contractor and client.

"It's surprise free," says Jack Livingood. "You get the exact same budget prior to construction as you do after construction."

The system can also put projects on faster tracks, shaving off months from the traditional bid-build construction process.

Big-D has been a leader nationally in the design-build trend. Such design-build projects account for 60 percent of the company's work. In June, the Engineering New Record ranked Big-D number 52 among U.S. design-build firms.

More and more, those in the government and the private sector are finding the price guarantee and time savings of a design-build project attractive. In the public sector it is even made more attractive after horror stories of cost overruns and controversy on projects like the Salt Palace. Davis County, for example, recently hired Big-D to handle the design-build process for its new conference center in Layton.

While not involved on the I-15 project, Big-D credits the state's decision to rebuild I-15 with a design-build method in part because of the success of the courts complex.

"It means management is taking responsibility for the cost and the schedule," Jack Livingood said.

Jack Livingood focuses on what he calls a value-added construction firm. In his world, that commitment translates into a single contact for clients with a guarantee of a 24-hour response to any question or problem. The commitment also extends beyond the completion of a project. Clients are assigned a quality assurance representative to make sure they are completely satisfied.

"We have an entire team of people follow up on the project. They want to know if something isn't working right," said marketing director Debra Tanzi. "We don't leave until it is finished. We want owner satisfaction."

Along with its top state ranking, Big-D was ranked the 141 largest construction firm in the nation by Engineering News Record magazine, joining what some observers consider an usual number of large, quality construction firms in Utah including Layton Construction Co., Jacobsen Construction, Jack B. Parsons Cos. and Okland Construction.

Following his late father's example, Jack Livingood takes great pride in giving back to the community. For example, he counts among his most satisfying projects the remodeled Peery's Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden.

"We had a blast with the project. . . . It is now one of the most beautiful theaters in the state," he said.

A quest for quality and integrity is what Livingood said has made Big-D successful.

"This is a construction company that's not about get-rich-quick. It's about integrity. It's about getting the job done right. It's about speed, quality and economy - not simply choosing any two of those three. No corners are cut," a company brochure echoing Livingood's philosophy reads.